This was caramel week and as caramel traditionally is not vegan I was pleased when I saw what the technical challenge was. I was confident that the shortbread and chocolate wouldn't be too much of a problem and the chance to make caramel would be a lot of fun.
This recipe took some time to do, which may be surprising after seeing how little time the contestants were given on the show. I spent a lot of time waiting for parts to be ready such as the biscuit to cool, the caramel to cool, the chocolate to set etc before I could move onto the next stage. On the show they just had to go ahead and hope for the best!
Here is the link for the original recipe on the Bake Off website: Paul Hollywood's Caramel Biscuit Bars - The Great British Bake Off | The Great British Bake Off
For the shortbread biscuit base: 55g unsalted butter, softened 25g caster sugar 55g plain flour 25g cornflour
For the caramel filling: 90g caster sugar 15g liquid glucose 45ml double cream 50g unsalted butter
I decided not to directly substitute but to use a recipe I'd used once before to make caramel toffees.
For the caramel: Vegan butter alternative 62g
Light brown soft sugar 62g
Vegan Condensed Milk 185g
Vegan soya cream 2 1/2tbsp
Cornflour 1 1/2 tbsp
Pinch of sea salt
For the chocolate coating: 300g milk chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate)
I used the method as described on the Bake Off website for the shortbread and chocolate. The vegan caramel instructions are below.
To make the caramel I put the butter, brown sugar, vegan condensed milk in a non-stick saucepan. I mixed the cornflour and soya cream in a cup till it was smooth then added to the pan.
Then I heated the mixture, stirring constantly until boiling on a medium/high heat. Once boiling I checked on the temperature and when it reached 116C (soft ball stage, as shown on the thermometre) I removed it from the heat. I poured it in a bowl and left it to cool which took about half an hour. Eventually it was thick enough to pipe without it dripping off although it was hard work! Maybe I left it too long!
Tips based on my experience
Be really neat and precise when cutting your shortbread. use the tin as a guide and trim bits off. If you don't it'll be hard to lower into the tin intact.
The caramel cooled fairly quickly, especially once I'd put it into the piping bag. It was quite an arm workout squeezing it out. You'll notice that for the last three I just took a piece of caramel and shaped it with my hands.
The chocolate I used was 72% dark chocolate so it was very rich and not really like the chocolate bar it represents (following the trend of not saying what it is a replica of!) in flavour. If you want it to be similar you could use vegan milk chocolate but this can sometimes be expensive.
If I were to do it again and had plenty of time I would consider tempering the chocolate. These bars start to melt when you pick them up but that doesn't take away from the taste. Having said that, tempered chocolate has more snap so you may not want that on a soft caramel biscuit.
I mistakenly put my chocolate bars on their base on the wire rack when they weren't completely set and so they were a but messy underneath and stuck to the rack! (See the pic) Don't be impatient like me, place them on a lined tray and wait for it to set before putting the chocolate on the tops.
I would say these were a success. There was a good ratio of caramel, biscuit and chocolate. They were a
little chewy but not too much. They were also fairly easy to make if you don't mind working on them for a while, you'll not be able to whip them up if you have a surprise guest but if you have visitors the next day then then you'll have time!
It was easy to make the caramel too although it's tense not knowing what it will set like: a bit like jam making! I think I'm going to look at more caramel recipes I can attempt, especially with Christmas coming up. Speaking of which, I couldn't resist using my Christmas tablecloth in the background! It's probably a tad early but, after our Christmas preview event last week, I'm in the mood!
Thanks for reading everyone, good luck making these if you decide to give them a go.